Mt. Yoshino 0

Mt. Yoshino is renowned as the best place in Japan to experience cherry blossom trees. With over 30,000 trees scattered across the mountain, it’s no wonder! But Nara’s Mt. Yoshino has more than just cherry blossom trees on offer. With its UNESCO World Heritage sites nestled in breathtakingly colourful autumn foliage, Mt. Yoshino is also a great place to visit in the fall.

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The best way to get to Nara’s Mt. Yoshino is from Osaka Abenobashi Station, on the Kintetsu Railway Line. The Kintetsu Line takes you straight to the cable car station, without needing any transfers. But more than simplicity, the Kintetsu Railway company also offers style not seen since our grandparent’s generation. I chose to travel in such style on the newly created Kintetsu    “Blue Symphony” train. The Blue Symphony harks back to the golden age of railway travel, with spacious seating, stylistic design and a dedicated restaurant car.

The seats on the Blue Symphony are wide and cushy, with soft lighting and dining tables for groups. As an avid fan of old movies and mystery books, this was a special experience for me. Looking out the wide view windows, I enjoyed watching the cityscape of Osaka transform into the beautiful countryside of Nara Prefecture.

The Blue Symphony train includes services such as a fully stocked bar and dining car, a library and restrooms. From the bar we can order alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, cakes and other snacks. I enjoyed drinking a beer because it was a little too early in the day for a whiskey, which would have better suited the decor.

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Arriving at Yoshino Station 

Arriving at Yoshino Station felt nostalgic as it’s an outdoor station, from which we can catch a peak of the mountain and its leaves. The station area has a few tourist shops and snacks, but most food and service is found further up the mountain around the temples. There is no ATM down here, but a kind women let me rest assured there is an international ATM up the mountain. Japan is still largely a cash society so we must mind these things.

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The road from the station took me directly to Senbonguchi Station (the cable car station), which would cut a good 20 minutes off the walk. The cable car was not running due to the heavy typhoon though, with frequent bus services running as a replacement. I therefore opted to walk up the mountain, and I feel it was well worth the effort. If you do take the cable car, the ride will cost ¥300 one way. Whilst I do recommend walking, why not do both? The Mt. Yoshino cable car is after all the oldest cable car in Japan, adding some history to your travels.

After passing through the Kinpusenji Kuromon (Kinpusen Temple black gate), I entered the main area of Mt. Yoshino. Along the roads from here there are many wonderful souvenir stores, not to mention restaurants. Many of the restaurants have nice views over the valley below.

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Kinpusenji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and at the forefront of one of the native Japanese religions, Shugendo. Shugendo is a practice that worships the mountain, and is distinguished by its “feats of strength”. In fact, “Shugendo” means "the path of training and testing". 

Pilgrims perform feats of strength and courage in honour of the mountain, such as climbing difficult passes or standing under waterfalls. Kinpusenji’s main hall, Zao-do, stands 34 metres tall making it Japan’s second tallest wooden structure. Inside the hall you can see 3 statues of the deity of Mt. Yoshino, Zao Gongen. The status of Zao Gongen stand seven meters tall and are 1300 years old!

Besides the Zao-Do, Kinpusenji includes many smaller shrines and a pagoda. Not to mention the fantastically colorful autumn foliage and views over the valley.

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Further up the mountain, Yoshimizu Shrine is found by taking a slight detour of the main road. I missed the turn at first, so keep a sharp lookout for the stone torii gate. This shrine dates back the eighth century, and is very popular due to its wonderful garden and panoramic views over the mountain. The view is most famous during the cherry blossom season, but was still stunning in autumn. Yoshimizu Shrine was used by the splinter Emperor Go-Daigo, who set up his competing Imperial Court here. The shrine is also therefore an Imperial Court. Emperor Go-Daigo is enshrined here at Yoshimizu Shrine.

Nowadays Yoshimizu serves as a sort of treasure house, and for ¥400 we can enter. Inside I found various treasures such as painted screen doors and Noh masks. The rear garden is also very beautiful and looks over the valley toward Kinpusenji temple.   


After climbing Mt. Yoshino, I was famished! As Nara’s Mt. Yoshino is a sacred mountain in the Shugendo religion, I thought it a good idea to enjoy a bowl of sansai soba. Why? Because it means “mountain vegetables soba”! Let’s enjoy the offerings of the mountain, whilst we enjoy looking over the mountain and the valleys of Mt. Yoshino.



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LUKE JACKSON 

Hi! I am a traveler, musician and student living in Japan. I love traveling to places I don't know much about, and then learning as much as possible whilst I'm there. I spend my spare time at home writing fiction, non-fiction and programs, so I hope you find my articles here both informative and fun to read. I first came to the Kansai region as an exchange student, and through the kind hearts of the local people, the unique cuisine and the relaxed lifestyle, the region will always hold a special place in my heart.